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Jewish inspiration

Jewish Inspiration, Uncategorized November 9, 2016

Election Aftermath

So Donald Trump is president and half of America is mourning. And plenty are elated. My Facebook feed, mostly non-Orthodox Jews, is dominated by mourning. People lamenting the loss of normalcy, of values, of shattering the glass ceiling once and for all. People describing the emotions like losing a loved one. 

Jewish Inspiration October 19, 2016

Be Happy

There’s a certain anxiety when you haven’t blogged in awhile, like your next post better have been worth the wait. I recently switched from Blogger to WordPress and I’m still adjusting to this new relationship, but today I downloaded the WordPress app on my phone, and it’s waaay more lovable than the actual site. So here I am blogging on my phone, deciding to just be casual and conversational and not let the blogger bogeyman get me down. 

Uncategorized January 13, 2016

When I Climbed Masada

cross-posted from jfxramblings.blogspot.com

The Israel experience I just had with 40-some other friends and family was unforgettable. There were many highs and many precious moments.
But I’m going to tell you about a low. The kind of thing I didn’t post on Facebook. And that was the climbing of Masada.
Uncategorized April 6, 2015

Mah Nishtana

1. Why is this night different from all the other nights?

2. Why is my Seder different from all the other Seder?

3. Why is my kid different from all the other kids?

4. Why is my life different from all the other lives?

Why why why?

Uncategorized September 8, 2014

Facebook

‘Tis the season for introspection.
Rosh Hashanah is upon us in a matter of weeks, which means it’s time to engage in that self-reflective evaluation known in Hebrew as “cheshbon hanefesh.” Which means a reckoning of the soul.
Each year I try, and delightfully (cough) succeed in coming up with something that I need to improve.  As I scan my deeds and lifestyle, there is one thing that consistently plagues me.
Facebook.

Though I’m also on Twitter and Pinterest, I am frightfully attached to Facebook. For someone who doesn’t even drink coffee, being this needy is a new and unpleasant state of affairs. OK, not new; definitely unpleasant. My introspection process led me to ask “why?” What is it about Facebook that I’m so attached to?
Three things.
1.  The fear of boredom. When I’m just sitting around waiting for my kid to put his stupid sock on, there’s Facebook to alleviate my intense boredom. Waiting in line at Target? Got five minutes of down time at the BMV?  Okay, an hour of downtime at the BMV. There’s always Facebook on my phone to entertain and enlighten me with my friends’ news, interesting articles written by mostly intelligent grownups, or pictures of happy occasions.
What’s wrong with this picture is twofold. 
A, what’s so bad and untenable about sitting with my own thoughts? About observing life around me? Why this intense drive to banish boredom?
B, I could easily fill those few moments with far more lofty endeavors. I’m not even talking about reading something spiritual or saying a few chapters of Psalms (although I did always kind of want to be that person). I’m talking about sending an email to a friend, calling my grandmother, or making a list of people to reach out to. Or deciding what to make for dinner this week so I’m not doing the 5 o’clock scramble.
2. Curiosity about other people. I like people and I’m curious about their lives. I love to see what people are up to, what they find important, what they find funny.
OK, what’s so bad about that?
Well, let’s just own the fact that this is just old-fashioned gossip all dressed up in a pretty package. Pretty, because people are posting about themselves, so it’s not unkosher, but nevertheless that same shameless gossip culture is there.
3. Oversharing. This is where I examine what I post and why. I’m a very active Facebook user. I post at least once a day and usually more.
Here’s the breakdown of the types of stuff I post, in order of what I’m most proud of to what I’m least proud of:
*Torah thoughts that I think could motivate or inspire others as they do me
*Interesting articles or videos about Israel, human relationships, or the world that similarly might inspire or motivate, or generate an interesting discussion
*Honest confessions, either humorous (I think so anyway *grin*) or sardonic, about my life or parenting to help others know they’re not alone, make them laugh, and also to seek support, solidarity and love from friends.
*Requests for advice, recommendations, or information
*Pictures of me or my family
Most of these things are noble in nature. I aim to show people that in many important ways we are all the same on life’s journey. I aim to show people I am a normal mom doing normal things and that we’re not so different. I aim to bring down the culture of perfectionism and lower the obstacles between us. I aim to educate, embrace, elucidate, unify, and giggle.
The problem with all of this is that I’m always checking in to see if I’ve succeeded. And success in Facebook parlance is likes and shares. Likes and shares are ego-boosters too. Likes and shares is reliance on others for self-esteem. It’s really hard to separate all that out.
So what’s a girl to do? If my Facebook was all about selfishness and ego, it would be clear to me that it’s got to go. If my Facebook was all about Torah and kindness, it would be obvious to me that it’s got to stay. But like most things in life, it’s a tangled, messy mix of both.
A few times I’ve considered a “Facebook fast” but truly wondered about the good things that can be accomplished here. So I’m considering a FBF for the Ten Days of Repentance, starting from the first say Rosh Hashanah and concluding with Yom Kippur (I don’t use electricity anyway for three of the ten).
What do you think?
What are you reflecting on this season?
Uncategorized April 27, 2014

Staying In for Yizkor

Yizkor is one of the strangest events that happens in a synagogue.  Most of the members leave the sanctuary, and only some stay to say a special prayer that only applies to them.  The reason for this is that if someone has both of their parents alive, and is thus not obligated to say Yizkor, it would be an “ayin hara” to stay in and have all the bereft congregants feel envious.

Yizkor is said four times a year: on Yom Kippur, the last day of Sukkot, the last day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot.  There’s also a custom to light a yahrtzeit candle for our loved one the night before Yizkor is said, and to say “L’EEloy nishmat [Hebrew name ben/bat father’s Hebrew name]” which means, “may this be an elevation of the soul of [insert name of loved one]”.  A candle is compared to a soul in a number of places in Jewish literature and lighting a candle is a Jewish way to memorialize a loved one.


I’m in the Yizkor Club – the club no one wants to be in.  I’ve been saying Yizkor since I am 7 years old, aware of the pity for being so young.  Even now at 39, it’s somewhat depressing that a person my age has to say Yizkor, even though it’s actually one of my favorite things to say.  I’ve always connected very strongly to what Judaism teaches us about the afterlife, and in Yizkor, it’s so poignantly and openly discussed – essentially, permission to dwell on death.  
It’s kind of like the elephant in the room.  Talking about the loved ones that we miss, especially decades later, is something that’s not socially appropriate most of the time, and those of us who have lost a loved one treasure the opportunity to talk about them, cry for them, and mourn a mini-mourning.  More, Yizkor is my chance to offer help to my deceased father by asking God to remember him in the next world.  This is incredibly empowering in a situation which mostly leaves one feeling helpless.
It always suprises me how short Yizkor is.
God, please remember the soul of my father, my teacher, Moshe ben Aryeh Leibush, who has gone on to his world.  Because of this, I will commit to giving tzedakah in his merit.  May his soul be bound up in the bonds of life, with the sould of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah and with the other righteous men and women who are in the Garden of Eden; and let us say Amen.
That’s it.  But the old ladies in shul always hung around for longer, leaving me wondering what on earth they were doing for so long.  So since I didn’t want to leave conspicuously early, I just used those moments to meditate on my loss, and my hopes for the future.
It was in those moments, I discovered the Kel Malei Rachamim prayer that delves even more beautifully into what is going on with the souls of our loved ones in the next world.
God who is full of mercy, who dwells on high, please find a good peacefulness, on the wings of the Shechinah (Divine Spirit of femininity), in the lofty heights of the holy and pure, who shine like the brilliant brightness of heaven, to the soul of Moshe ben Aryeh Leibush, who has gone to his eternal rest.  Because of this I commit to giving tzedakah on behalf of his soul.  May his resting place be in the Garden of Eden.  Therefore, may the Master of mercy care for him under the protection of His wings forever, and bind his soul in the bond of everlasting life.  God is his inheritance and may he rest in peace, Amen.
These last few lines are so incredibly moving and comforting for me.  They remind me anew each time that death is not an end, that what we see is not all there is, that I matter in continuing the legacy of my father, that Jewish continuity effected by me and my siblings matter to him, and that I am not at all helpless in the face of loss and tragedy.
Yizkor.
May God remember, and may we remember.
What has your experience been with saying Yizkor?